New Study Confirms Plastic Pipe Thermal Degradation as Source of Water Contamination in Fire Events

A new study by Andrew J. Whelton and his research team in the Environmental Science: Water Research & Technology journal tested eleven plastic drinking water pipes, across eight brands, under elevated temperatures to observe the extent of VOC leaching. The study concludes that thermally damaged drinking water pipes can be sources of VOC leaching, with ten of the eleven materials leaching benzene, a carcinogen, into water. As exposure temperature increased, an increase in VOC leaching was observed in the polyethylene materials.

This study has huge implications for wildfire and structure fire recovery, confirming that water contamination in the 2018 Camp Fire and 2017 Tubbs Fire were most likely caused by plastic water infrastructure.